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Park Run Prescription

25th June 2018

The sound of beeps from smart watches and phones firing up their exercises apps marks the end of the 5k Brighton and Hove Promenade Park Run and the race is on. The beat of the feet is almost hypnotic as I set off and plot my way through my friends and other runners to get some space and hopefully keep up with my running buddy Mark, it’s quite a short run but it’s quite the challenge.  I’m hoping to beat my personal best of 21minutes 27 seconds and I am hopeful that todays the day. Last week I felt short quite a bit due to over eating at breakfast for the run.

Park Run Prescription?

Park Runs made the news this weeks as this free event which you can register for and take place in on Saturday mornings delivers some amazing health benefits.  In fact one GP, Dr Simon Tobin said “My patients are healthier, happier and on fewer medications, and the NHS saves a fortune on unnecessary drugs”.

That’s high praise indeed for this short but challenging run and it’s a piece of advice I have been giving for years and will continue to do so.  Clients who take up cardio exercise to help strengthen and heal their mental fitness are often shocked at how they feel as they make cardio exercise a regular habit.  I love the diversity of the runners. There are all ages taking part and it’s great to see children running with their parents as well as people in their late sixties enjoying the challenge too.

So why does running or cardio activity help so much?

Amygdala Workout

Whilst scientists debate the existence of the  endorphin rush and “runners high”, one thing that is for certain is that my serotonin levels are up and these not only can help ward off anxiety but also depression too. Exercise strengthens the amygdala which is part of the brain which deals with the freeze, or flight response.  Some studies suggest that exercise can be as effective as medication which really does make it a great option to explore before taking the medicinal route.  Making the amygdala more resilient so it can handle life’s challenges more easily makes such a difference when it comes to being mentally fit . Some studies have also indicated that cardio exercise can increase the effectiveness of anti-depressants too, which is great news for anyone struggling with their mental health.

Bliss

Another side effect is the slight increase of a neurotransmitter called anandamide which is commonly known as “the bliss molecule” due to the positive effects it has on the brain which also include memory, motivation, appetite and reducing nervous system and brain inflammation. Anyone suffering with stress, anxiety and depression really do need to consider exercise as a way to not only help themselves heal but also help reduce the chance of mental health issues in the future.

My Mind

With a busy diary of clients, I need my attention to be sharp, focused and energised or my clients won’t get what I want to give them and that is their best and most effective session. Exercise for me really gives me exactly what I need to help me function all day at my best. Good lifestyle choices are vital to help fire up my mind also has a huge effect in how I perform as Coach and Therapist.

Your Motivation

Finding your motivation is important here and that is what Coaching and Therapy can help with. We all have different reasons, mine is mostly mindset but my vanity gets a little boost from changes to how I look too. Whether it’s weight, physical health, the challenge or mental health, or way to meet new people working out what cardio works for you could be a life changer.

Besides running I enjoy Spin classes at Cycle City, these are really good fun, challenging and theres a another wonderful sense of community and belonging there which makes it more than just an exercise class. 

The hard part can be starting, but you can do it no matter what your inner critic may say. With some help and a few nudges, your brilliant brain will adapt and make it easier the more you explore what works for you.

If you do decide to take part in a Park Run, here are my top 3 tips to make it easier for you.

  1. Get the right running footwear, this doesn’t have to be an expensive pair of trainers. A running specialist shop can help you work out what type of trainer will help you reduce the chance of injuries.
  1. Comfortable running gear is a must and quite inexpensive, make sure it’s breathable, quick drying and draws sweat away from the body. It’s not the best running in wet gear.
  1. What you eat and drink before a run will make a huge difference to your performance. I eat lightly about an 90 minutes before, making sure theres plenty of glucose to burn during the run itself.  I have a banana, small bowl of cereal with honey on top, that is it.  Take water with you for before and after to rehydrate.

So did I beat my fastest time of 21 minutes and 27 seconds? Sadly not! I somehow fell short by 6 seconds and can’t wait for the challenge next week and I might just see you down there.

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